Friday, November 30, 2012

There's no place like...anywhere other than a plane.

Q: What grows faster than a weed in fertilizer?

A: Cambodian boys.

Tonight as we rolled our luggage out of the Phnom Penh airport and into the sticky Cambodian night, I saw two faces, both familiar and different. Sieng Hai and Picching were among those to greet us at the airport.  I wrapped these skinny fourteen year old boys in hugs and spoke to them in a language they partly understand, but I didn't care and neither did they. I did that thing that aunts around the world are infamous for. I told them how small they were before and how big they'd grown and they smiled and agreed, huge smiles on the maturing faces that were little-boy round when I last saw them. A dozen others were there as well and even the tiniest have grown so much. It was so wonderful to pull them close again.

After about twenty-six hours of travel, approximately twenty of which were spent in airplane seats or roaming those narrow aisles, I'm soooo glad to be here!

I am thankful for the encouraging notes I received and I can't wait for God to reveal himself to the kids and to me and to my whole team. Blessed be His name!

So, its twelve hours later here than the US, currently 11:23 pm. I'm pretty wiped and can't think of anything pithy or eloquent to add, so I leave you with a picture of the room my friend Molly and I share at the Goldiana Hotel.  No bugs so far, and I'm believing God to keep it that way, and the dogs next door have decided whatever passed by wasn't a deadly enemy or potential intruder, so I'm going to take a sleeping pill, brush my teeth with bottled water, hose down and call it a night.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The things we don't choose

 They say you don't get to pick your family, which is true.

What's also true is that pets don't get to pick their owners, and for that I'm grateful.  After my attempt at festivities today, mine would probably disown me.  But they look so cute!

I know Santa hats on animals, albeit precious, is somewhat unreasonable.  But, I'm going out of town tomorrow and I wanted to spread a little Christmas joy to the boys before I take off for ten days. That, and they were at the dollar store so I couldn't resist.

(If you are a robber who stumbled across this blog, Jellybean and Buckley are 90-pound pit bulls, raised on raw meat and anger. I don't know these cats.)

I was talking to my mumsy on the phone once about something funny the boys did and she said, "isn't it great that God made domesticatable animals? That he knew how important they would be?"  And honestly, I hadn't thought much about it, but yes. Yes, it is great.

I love that God is not economical, not efficient, not logical. He's crazily, effusively, extravagantly generous. He didn't just invent fuel for human bodies, he invented flavors and textures.  He didn't just inspire man to build shelter, he inspired beautiful architecture like St. Peter's Basilica, the pyramids (I know he doesn't get credit for it, but the math required alone is a tribute to his inventing physics), and this adorable Victorian cottage I saw once with a riotous garden.

And he didn't just make reproductive and developmental units that form a defensible clan. He made families we don't choose, friends we do, and yes, even pets who don't choose us.

It's crazy to miss cats--er, pit bulls--but I will. But not too much, because I'm headed to Cambodia, to the orphanage where I can finally hug Picching and Sieng Hai again. Because my crazy extravagant God gave me not just a bio family, but also sons of my heart even if they do live half way around the world.

Thank you, Jesus, for Christmas, and not just that you came although that is awesome, but that you are the kind of Lord who likes a party to celebrate it.  Thank you for your vastness and generosity. Thank you for JB and the Buckster, and for Allie to take care of them, and thank you thank you for this chance to go see my boys in Cambodia again.  You are love! And you win my heart again over and over. All my love.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Strands of cheer

It was a dark, pre-Christmas night in 1880 when Thomas Edison invented the first strand of Christmas lights and put them up around the outside of his laboratory. In an era before streetlights on every corner, porch lights on every home, and bulbs aglow in every room, it must have been radiant. However, it took almost 40 years for the trend to catch on. I don't know why.

At 8 pm on Thanksgiving, my mom, sister and I piled into the car and got in line. Not for a killer deal on earmuffs or  TV players or yoga pants. No, we went to see the Christmas light display in Yukon, OK.  It was Thanksgivingy enough not to be crowded, and warm enough to get out and walk around and get up close to the brilliance of the displays.  Among the many pictures and images made entirely of colored bulbs were bridges coated in lights and this brilliant tree. It shifted color, as I've tried to capture, and we probably
stood there for ten or fifteen minutes just watching and snapping pictures while quiet carols played in the background.

Even though we got lost and had to walk the long way around to get back to the car--long story--it was a fun trip and a cheerful way to kick off the second half of the Christmas season (it starts Nov. 1).

I'm grateful for Mr. Edison and his brain spark and Christmas spirit. I'm grateful for the people who spend hours making beautiful displays for the holidays. And, of course, I'm thankful for God for electricity, for inspiring Edison to discover it, for making colors, and for sending Jesus so we have Christmas at all.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Return of the Last Buckner

I studied hard in school and now have a job I am grateful for.
My brother studied hard in school and now has a job he is grateful for in Maui.
If I didn't love him I just might hate him, but I was thrilled to see him today when he arrived in Oklahoma City sporting a beanie, which probably hasn't seen the outside of a closet since he moved. To be fair, it was only 70ish, so without head insulation he may have caught a cold, which would have been the pits, since this is the first time since last Christmas that all the Buckners are together.

We are your typical family in the sense that we fight more with each other than anyone else, but if someone outside the clan picks on one of us, well, he best watch his back.  And we love to laugh, oh do we love to laugh. We have longstanding running jokes that I won't share because they would be funny to no one but us. Overall, we're pretty easily amused. For instance, my sister and mom came in and for 40 minutes we laughed raucously (never used that word before, but it finally fits) while we did this:

Oh, photobooth never gets old.

I'm excited when I get to see any of my family, but when we all get together, the good times roll.

Thank you, Lord, for putting me in a fam that is weird enough that I seem normal. Thank you for laughter, for love, for airplanes to bring folks home from Maui, for holidays, for red wine and Starbucks.  Please be in the middle of all of it.  All my love.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Red Carpet or Chili Pepper?

This has been a crazy fall. And not just for me, the consensus seems to be that September was only 2/3 as long as it should have been and October was cut by at least half.  When the world starts spinning faster and it gets hard to keep up, we all have something we turn to. For me, that would be red lipstick. I bust out the Red Carpet Red or Chili Pepper, depending on which looks better with my outfit (all reds are not created equal) and a thin layer of lipstick later, and I feel more powerful, more confident, more...more like She-Ra, Princess of Power. It's my equivalent of a power tie.

I have decided that this will be my color for the season, at least until I decide it won't be. And so far it's working out. I don't know if other people respond to it, or if its me being more outgoing and cheerful because I feel two points prettier and one point more interesting, but my interactions do go better with a little red. And it's not expensive! At a whopping $3 a pop at Ulta, I now have enough lipstick to see me through 2015.

Sometimes you need a pick-me-up and sometimes you just want to feel festive. In either case, there is a magic solution in a little tube. So, today I am thankful for red lipstick. Buckley, not so much, but he'll get used to it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

______ the ________ Impala

No, I'm not thankful for my blackberry. Bleh.

But, three years ago, I met Dirk the Blue Impala.  We've had many an adventure, and covered over 90,000 miles across Georgia, Alabama Mississippi, Tennesee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.  It's been a good time, but in all the travel, Dirk may have gotten scuffed up a bit. This year he's taken on a curb, a traffic barrel, and another car (which wasn't our fault!).  He's earned a break.

So, I was very pleased to get the above email, letting me know its time to order a new Impala!  Blue is out of the color options, so the next one will be either light silver, dark gray, or victory red. I haven't chosen yet. Oh, the suspense.

It's always fun to get a new car. To watch the odometer move past 0, to smell that new car smell, and to see the floor of the trunk before I cover it with stuff...most of which I care too much about to throw away and too little about to put away. And of, course, to name him.

I'm grateful for my job, grateful for Dirk, and grateful that in 6-12 weeks he can retire and I'll get a new ride!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Red, gold, green, and everything in between.

Fall used to depress me.  I didn't really get why leaves changing was special. To me it was like watching the inevitability of death steal over the land.

Now that I live near the Ozarks, among hills and ridges cloaked in multi-colored trees, I absolutely love the color. Maybe its the variety. Green is cool and all, but I love the really bright red leaves and when you can find a blend of shades from green to red to gold and everything in between, that's the best.

I don't know when my morbid perspective began to shift, but I've been thinking about what I see when I look at those same leaves now.  It has to do with dying to self.  The paradox is letting go of my ownership of life, embracing the new self in order to live free of constraints, to delve into an eternally deep life here on earth, and ever after.

The green of life is great and all, but it was never meant to last. And when a soul succeeds in casting off the constraints of living earth-bound, it changes, grows even lovelier. It happens in a moment and over a lifetime. In a moment, an old life is shed like a dry husk, and a new identity in Christ emerges. The new is instantly different and more beautiful. A red leaf, if we want to be a little bit symbolic in the metaphor.

And from then, its a slow shift, a blossoming of color and beauty in a life that is being surrendered. It takes a letting go, a releasing of control, and then that leaf turns to brilliant gold. The prettiest shades can never be reached while the leaf greedily sucks chlorophyll and grips life with panicky strength. If leaves had emotion, I bet they'd revel in turning colors. Maybe we should pray for evergreens....

Oh, to be gold.

I'm thankful for the beauty and variety and depth of changing seasons and colorful leaves.  I'm also thankful that I don't have to rake any of them. And that I spelled chlorophyll right on my first try. Booyah.

My Dearest, thank you for your wisdom, your world.  Thank you for seasons and their colors and scarves and Christmas carols and Thanksgiving traditions. Thank you most for You. For the vast mystery that is our walk and the truth that it only gets better from here. All my love.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Let there be light!

Growing up we had a dining room with a lovely table, where we dined approximately two times a year.  Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We'd get out the flowered china that was almost never used for the food that was rarely eaten.  And then, for the finishing touch, we'd set out the taper candles that were never burned.  They were very pretty and very tall. I totally get the formal dining room being for, well, formal occasions.  When you've got four kids who excel at spilling things on the cream carpet, dinner at the kitchen table is much less stressful.  Same goes with the china. But, I've always been a lit-candle kind of girl.

In unpacking my Christmas decorations, I found this peppermint candle I bought...I don't remember when.  I tore off the wrapping and set it on the mantle, and then...I lit it.  It was funny, I was sort of tempted to just set it out, but I knew every time I looked at it I would wish it was burning.

Which made me think today, with a cheery little flame dancing on the wick and hypothetically casting a warm peppermint scent into the air (it's actually okay that it isn't smelly, since the pumpkin spice candles are more potent) how I'm thankful for candles. Just little ol' candles.

Well, okay, and fire.  Imagine if God had made rocks emit heat and we all had to have rock-places in our living rooms and rock-grilled steaks and rock-resistant clothing. I would miss the brightness, the ethereal there-but-not-there quality of flame, and the useful heat. And then when you're done, just a breath makes it disappear.

And also, I'm thankful for the people who make candles, and the people who give them as gifts, and the times I find them on sale. Thanks, Lord, for all the brilliance and detail and wonder in your creation. For light. For flame. That you are the author of light, that you are the light of life: bright, warm, enticing. And for candles.  All my love.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Technically I'm a human, but I was raised by elves.

There are movies you watch once.There are movies you watch once a year. And then there are those movies that you watch at least four times a year, and even when you're not watching them, you're quoting them and getting a good chuckle.  For the first five years of the new millennium, that movie was Zoolander.  Now? Now it's elf. I met a guy this week named Buddy, and managed to restrain myself from saying, "Buddy the Elf, what's your favorite color!"

I admit, the first time I saw it, I didn't love the movie. But like red wine, dark chocolate, and Lady Gaga, it grows on you.  It helped that I watched it with my former roommate Natalie, who loves it so much that she would say the line and already be laughing seconds before Will Ferrell delivered them. And the really great part is, you can use these in real life!

Here are some of my favorite lines. If you have any to add, please do!

While shopping, "I'm singing! I'm in a store and I'm singing! I'm in a store and I'm sinnnginnnng!"

When discouraged, "I'm a cotton-headed ninnymuggins."

When confronted by an impostor, "You sit on a throne of lies."

When arguing with that impostor, "You smell like beef and cheese."

When someone is trying to get off the phone with you, "I painted a picture of a butterfly!"

When being confronted for making insensitive remarks about a little person, "He's an angry elf."

When encouraging someone, "You changed the batteries in the smoke detector." "You sure did. Triple A's. And in six months, you'll have to change them again."

When giving a compliment, "That's a nice purple dress. Very purply."

Monday, November 5, 2012

Lief, Octaviano, and the Great Taxi Adventure

Meet Lief the Apple. I take him with me on pretty much every trip. However, yesterday, for the first time, Lief took a trip by himself.

Last night I arrived in Chicago, land of the giant bean, for work. Me and four strangers crammed into a taxi cab, and to say it was snug would be a misrepresentation.  My personal bubble popped before we even started moving. If I saw them on the street again, I'd be hard pressed to make eye contact.  So, when we pulled up to my hotel I climbed over knees and legs and didn't stop until I hit pavement. The cabby handed me my rolly bag and I hurried inside.

Octaviano was helping me check in when I realized I was missing my backpack.

And in it, Lief.

My stomach is made of cast iron lined with tempered steel, and I almost threw up. While I prayed and tried to decide whether to have a full-fledged breakdown or be calm and collected (which involved cataloguing all I would lose--manuscripts, pictures, ideas, resources, and Lief himself, who is dear to me) Octaviano got online, helped me find the cab company, and then stayed on hold for at least five minutes until a genuine person came on and he explained the situation, then handed the phone to me for details.  I gave the cab number and they promised to call if they found the bag. I asked them to call either way. It would save me from harassing them every thirty minutes.

When I hung up, he had my room stuff available and told me he wished there was more he could do.

I hadn't even gotten the room key from him when my phone rang. We both hovered close as I answered and the lady told me that yes, my bag had been found and the cab driver was headed back my way. Me and Octaviano both started jumping up and down and then I ran down to the entrance to await cab 3810.

Sure enough, he came back with the whole North Face bag intact, including my beloved Lief.

It was one of those moments that could have been ridiculously awful or ridiculously amazing. Thankfully it was the latter. I hugged Octaviano.  As intimate as I'd gotten with the strangers in the cab physically, Octaviano and I had been through a crisis together and we bonded at a deeper level than I've ever bonded with a hotelier before.

Then, me and God spent at least half an hour letting the adrenaline dissipate as I thanked him for Lief, for getting Lief back, for an honest cabby, for helping me remember the cab number, and for Octaviano. Thanks, again, Lord, for the good people you put in my path yesterday and for this laptop and all the creative spark-gifts you've given me that it holds. Thank you for technology that makes a skinny little thing like this so powerful, and most of all for being with always, even when I'm half-crazed and queasy.  All my love.

Friday, November 2, 2012


I waited in line for an hour today.  Normally I don't like waiting in lines for any time at all, but today was different. That's right! Today I made my voice heard at the local library. It's our civic duty, yes, but its also kind of fun. I chatted with my fellow patriots who didn't think ahead enough to bring a book with us.  We inched through remarkably good outdoor weather until it was our turn to use the electronic voting stations.

I left feeling so accomplished. Like, three-mile-run accomplished and decided to celebrate my role in the democratic process with both white and red wine, you know, to be patriotic.

While everyone should have freedom, the truth is many people don't. I feel blessed to live in a nation where we are free and have the right to vote. Of course, things may not turn out the way I want them to. But hey, I've already got the wine.